I touched on this a bit in my last post, but then Deti stated it clearly:
For at least 30 years now, women have been encouraged to put off marriage for as long as possible. So that’s what men see now, and what they deal with.
So I started riffing on some recent thoughts in that direction, to see if I’d come up with anything useful, and it kind of went back to the conundrum in which good girls find themselves. So here goes.
Men don’t expect girls to be interested in marriage anymore, especially right out of high school. What’s the worst thing that can happen to a bright, young 18-year-old girl, in the eyes of our society — even in church people? Pregnancy. Not because of the sin, primarily, but because it closes off her “potential.” Even if she gets married to the father, who turns out to be a responsible provider, and they make a good family together, there will still be people who will sigh and wonder “what could have been,” as if she would have been curing cancer if she hadn’t gotten sidetracked by diapers and PTA meetings. Everyone except a few oddballs like the Amish or very traditional Catholics is in agreement: a girl shouldn’t get tied down too early, preferably not before 26-28, after college and a few years of establishing a career.
So young men catch this vibe and act accordingly. The guy who expresses an interest in marriage around typical 20-year-old girls quickly learns that he might as well talk about his struggles with chronic foot odor. The romantic, marriage-minded boy learns that he has to hide his good intentions, so as not to scare away the girls who just want to have fun.
I was one of those boys. I assumed that I would follow the script of my parents and grandparents: graduate from high school, find a nice girl, date a while, get married, and build a life together. On some parallel track, I would be establishing a career, but I didn’t expect one to have to wait for the other, because it didn’t for my ancestors. They got married young and started having kids and getting on with life, even though it meant sacrifices like living with one’s parents for a while until they could afford a place. It’s just what you did.
Well, not so much for my generation. The girls weren’t interested in marriage, and they certainly weren’t interested in struggling to get by, cooking on a hot plate in a dingy apartment while hubby worked long hours to save up for a house someday. They had fraternity parties to go to, and fascinating careers ahead of them!
Of course, while the girls weren’t interested in marriage, they were still interested in sex and temporary relationships. I didn’t really understand that for a long time, though, because I still had women on enough of a pedestal — and they still paid enough lip service to the idea of marriage someday, at least — that I assumed they really did want marriage, and my own lack of success meant I just wasn’t attractive enough. In hindsight, I can see that wasn’t it; girls were attracted to me at first, but I scared them off by coming on too relationshippy. Had I known what I know now, I could have gotten laid like tile; but the truth is, I just wanted to find a nice girl and settle down. (Not that I was so moral I wouldn’t have had sex with her at the first opportunity, but I would have married her.)
So, in that milieu, where most of the girls are just having fun and the boys have learned to play by those rules, what’s the Good Girl to do? How does she figure out which guys have an interest in marriage that they’re keeping quiet about? How does she signal to those guys that she’s different? Here’s what I would suggest, from the point of view of a man watching for that kind of girl:
First, don’t do what the other girls are doing. Don’t go to the parties, don’t watch shows about the fascinating lives of single working women, don’t dress like a hooker. Just by not doing the bad stuff, you already set yourself apart.
More on dress: go with dresses and skirts as much as possible. Keep it modest; look like you might be saving something under there that only one man will get to see. Don’t obsess about it; it’s not like you can’t wear jeans once in a while and still look feminine. But keep the cleavage out of sight and leave some things to the imagination. Also, have long hair and know how to work with it. Want to get a guy’s attention? Take your hair down and brush it out a bit then put it back up while you’re talking to him. Just don’t necessarily expect him to remember what you were talking about.
Talk about marriage/family topics around guys you find interesting. Not, “So, what do you think about marriage?” but talk about how much you enjoy babysitting your friends’ or relatives’ kids, or how great it was growing up in a big family (whatever applies to you). When a guy hears, “I love kids,” he knows what that means (even if she doesn’t). Remember that guys are much less perceptive about these things, so don’t be afraid that you’re coming on too strong. You’re much more likely to be too subtle. Remember that, if he’s a marriage-minded guy, he’s been burnt before by expressing it, so it might take more than a hint or two to convince him you’re on the level.
Learn and practice homemaking skills. If you’re doing things like cooking or sewing on a regular basis, it will come up in conversation naturally and will make you look more “wife-like” without you having to advertise it.
Don’t rule out older guys too quickly. I’m not saying you have to date guys 20 years older; if you’re not attracted to them, don’t. But don’t get stuck thinking you have to have someone within a few years of your age just because everyone says so. Guys 25-30 are much more likely to have gotten tired of waiting for the girls their age to stop partying, and could be very receptive.
Tell your friends and relatives in no uncertain terms that you’re ready to marry when the right guy comes along, and that you don’t want to fool around in the meantime. They may not approve, but word will get around, and may get to the right guys.
Any other suggestions?